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Arrangement

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“I’m being given as a peace offering?!” Dokja asked incredulously, staring at the ministers who refuse to meet his gaze. Though he is a ger, none of the men in front of him dare to underestimate him, and it shows when they flinch as he steps towards them. “Does my mother know about this?” His mother, the Empress, is notoriously protective of him even if they rarely interact. No one has ever forgotten the way she cut her own husband down for laying a hand on Dokja and taking the throne by force. 

“Yes.” One of the ministers speaks up. “She has already given her approval.” A servant comes up to Dokja and hands him a document. To his shock, he can see the Royal Seal at the bottom, next to his mother’s signature. 

Dokja suppresses the urge to tear the paper up. “Let me see her.” He demands. There’s betrayal running through him, though his mother may have been harsh to him while he was growing up, she never truly forced him to do anything that would cause him distress. 

A guard speaks up at that moment, lowering his head deferentially. “The Empress is currently commanding the army and cannot be reached for an indefinite amount of time.” Dokja wants to start cursing and breaking everything around him. It’s only the touch of his personal guard, Jung Heewon, that stops him. 

“Your Highness,” she says, “restraint.” Dokja takes deep breaths and nods to her in thanks. 

“When do I leave?” He can’t quite control the snarl in his tone, but he doesn’t care anymore. He’s about to become one of the many wives of a damn Crown Prince, if any of the ministers even try to have a problem with his attitude, he’ll gladly take the opportunity to release his anger. 

Unfortunately for him, they’re wise enough to let it be. “In a week’s time, Your Highness.” Dokja turns around and leaves the room, Heewon following behind him faithfully.  

“If I have to stay inside there with them for even a second more, I’ll lose it.” He says to her, marching towards the library. It’s the place in the palace he frequents the most, and it never fails to calm him down when he gets moody. 

Heewon laughs. “I would pay to see the looks on their faces if you get angry enough to pull your blade from your robes.” Dokja snorts, patting the left side of his chest and taking comfort in the solid sheathe he feels hidden away. 

“They’re not worthy of it.” Dokja says. “Mother always told me to only use it in self-defense anyways. If I pulled it out every time I felt like hitting someone, I would have lost the element of surprise already.” They enter the library and he waves off the servants that come forward to aid him.  

“So, which country was it?” Dokja asks. “I was too angry to look at the treaty properly.” Heewon shakes her head at him and leads him over to a large bookshelf. 

“If I remember correctly,” she says, running her hand over the spines of the books, “it should have been Murim.” Finding what she was looking for, Heewon takes out a record of the nation, handing it to Dokja as they walk to a corner of the library. 

“I should have guessed.” He opens the book up and starts reading. “Remind me to get someone to tutor me about the court mannerisms and politics later. If I’m going to be married off, I’m going to be the best damn arranged partner that bastard has.” 

“You’ve never even met the Crown Prince.” Heewon chides him. “So maybe he isn’t such a bad person.” 

Dokja sends her a dry look. “Yes, I haven’t met him before. And yet we’re getting married in a week’s time. If I want to call him a bastard, I will.” Heewon stops trying to argue with him and sits down, patiently waiting for him to finish. 

“...Do you really think my mother actually approved?” Dokja asks after a pause. “It just doesn’t feel right. Even if we were on the verge of destruction, she would never force something like this on me.” 

Heewon carefully looks around to make sure they’re alone before answering. “If you want my honest answer: No, I don’t believe the Empress would marry you off without your consent. If there’s one thing she still loves in this life, it’s you.”  

“But,” she continues quietly, “the Empress is off leading the war and we cannot contact her. All we can do is obey the ministers.” Dokja narrows his eyes, grip crinkling the pages of the book. The ministers were usually well-behaved under the iron control of Empress Sookyung, but the moment she left in a battle where her life wasn’t guaranteed, they immediately started pushing their own agendas. 

“Where Mother gets back, she’ll kill them all.” Dokja says, a gleam in his eyes. “I only wish I could be there to see it.”